Louise Nevelson 1900 —1988
"For me, the color black symbolized harmony and continuity." Louise Nevelson
Nevelson, is the creator of magical wood assemblages made from found objects and parts of furniture doused in black paint or gold or white. The catalogue accompanying, "Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend," retrospective at the de Young Museum in 2007, contains interviews with Mark di Suvero, Ursula von Rydingsvard and Chakaia Booker, sculptors of successive generations who have felt in some way the force of Nevelson's personality or example. This perhaps says more about Nevelson as an artist than having as she does, works in 80 or more public collections.
She was born in Kiev, Russia and at age five, moved with her family to Rockland, Maine where her father ran a lumber yard. In a town that was mostly Protestant, middle class, white people, she felt out of place. In 1920, she moved to New York and married Charles Nevelson. In 1931, Nevelson and her husband separated. Nevelson left her son with her parents to travel through Europe. She studied ancient and modern art in Italy, Germany, and Paris and briefly attended Hans Hoffman's school in Munich. In Germany, she studied with Hans Hoffman until the Nazis drove him away, and then she studied in Paris before returning to America to raise her son and pursue her art career. In 1941, Nevelson joined a circle of well-known artists that included Diego Rivera and Ben Shan. She assisted Rivera with murals he was executing under the WPA Federal Arts Project, including the monumental mural at Rockefeller Center in New York.
She had her first one-woman show, which was held at the Nierendorf Gallery in 1941 in New York, but her breakthrough did not come until 1957, when she began her box-like assemblages which received much critical acclaim.
My total conscious search in life has been for a new seeing, a new image, a new insight. This search not only includes the object, but the in-between place. The dawns and the dusks. The objective world, the heavenly spheres, the places between the land and sea...Whatever creation man invents, the image can be found in nature. We cannot see anything that we are not already aware of. The inner, the other = one."
Louise Nevelson Nature in Abstraction, 1957
Nature as a whole, with all its grandeur and baffling contradictions, became part of the very being of Louise Nevelson. It formed a well from which she could always refresh herself. One cannot overestimate the force her years in Maine and Central America had upon her.
During the 1950s, Nevelson became well known for her monumental box-shaped sculptures made out of fragments of wood, which she often found discarded on neighborhood streets. This original style received a great deal of acclaim and led Nevelson into circles of American surrealists, including Max Weber and Mark Rothko, with whom she later shared exhibitions. In 1959, Nevelson's all-white environment, "Dawn's Wedding Feast," was exhibited in "Sixteen Americans," a major group show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Nevelson's piece consisted of one room, all in white, with bedding, a mirror, a wedding-cake, and a band.
Nevelson's reputation grew throughout the 1960s and 70s. She was awarded a prize to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1963 and had her first retrospective at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art in 1967. In the mid 1960s, she began welding found objects to welded steel, and directed a team of workers to make her black steel sculptures for large outdoor installations. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Nevelson was occupied with numerous public commissions and the production of large-scale sculpture and monumental environments often using Cor-Ten steel. Invited to participate in an international selection of group shows, Nevelson's work appeared in the Pittsburgh International Exhibition at the Carnegie Institute (1958, 1961, 1964, 1970), the Venice Biennale (1962, 1976), Expo 1970 in Osaka, Japan, Documenta III in Kassel (1964), the 1973 Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Spoleto Festival (1982-83), among others.
She wrote in her autobiography, "Dawns and Dusks," that she credited her own determination, for her success. Nevelson received six honorary doctorates. In recognition of that success, the U.S. government in 2000 issued special Louise Nevelson commemorative stamps, with five varieties, each with a photo of one of her monochrome sculptures.
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View synoptic biography below.
Louise Nevelson's work can be found internationally in over eighty public museum, university, corporate, and municipal collections including: The Art Institute of Chicago; The Art Museum, Princeton University (Princeton, NJ); The Brooklyn Museum; The Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC); the William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum (Rockland, ME); the Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino (Turin, Italy); the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (Tokyo, Japan); the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, DC); the Israel Museum (Jerusalem, Israel); the Julliard School of Music at Lincoln Center (New York, NY); the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebæk, Denmark); The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY); The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montreal, Canada); the Musée National d'art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris, France); The Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY); the City of New York; the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller (Otterlo, Netherlands); the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Edinburgh, Scotland); the City of Scottsdale, Arizona; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY); the Storm King Art Center and Sculpture Park (Mountainville. NY); the Tate Gallery (London, England); the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN); and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY).
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